Moose Hunting Fun
By Greg Gove- MH's Staff Writer
If you have never moose hunted before you probably think it is easy. In some parts of the world, and on some T.V. shows it does appear to be a lot less of a challenge than hunting deer or other more wary animals. I am here to tell you that the opposite is true in the state of Vermont. The season takes place after the rut has happened which has always baffled me. The bulls are less apt to come to a call and the cows are in hiding refueling from the breeding season. I have been lucky enough to be on three moose hunts in my life and each one has been a unique hunt and a learning experience. There are those hunters that fill there tag first thing opening morning by a road with little or no effort, and then there are those who like to get into the back country and work for it a little. I fit into the second category.
After pulling a VT moose tag a few years back my hopes were really high, but after realizing that I had drawn a zone in the southern half of the Northeast Kingdom with a success rate that is one of the lowest around I knew I had my work cut out for me. Numerous scouting missions had shown me a lot of moose sign but no actual moose sightings. I did however see sign of one heck of a bull that was marking his territory in a big cut over swampy section of woods so that is where I decided I was going to concentrate my time.
Big Bull Moose Track
Fast forward three days into the season, no moose, only one cow sighting and some major frustration starting to set in. We headed up an old logging road at first light with the plan of sitting in a clear cut and calling a few hours before striking out for some new territory. The temps were supposed to get up into the 80’s that day so I knew the moose wouldn’t be on there feet long. About 2 miles up the old road we came to the cut and we sat down and began to call. About 15 minutes went by, and about every five minutes I would pull the string on the old can call and listen for any movement or call back. I thought I could hear something in the swamp a couple hundred yards out breaking some branches, but it wasn’t until about 5 minutes later that my co shooter and guide heard the noise and saw the bull coming out of the swamp. I raised my gun and from about 175 yards out and a huge rack of horns caught my eye. My buddy Sean was sitting between my father in law and I with the binoculars on the moose and we were all at full attention waiting for the bull’s next move. He stood there for a couple of minutes and all I could see above the small pine trees was an ear and the rack. I tried calling a couple times, but all I could get him to do was turn his head in my direction. I was unsure of what to do next. The bull wasn’t coming any closer, I had no shot, and I wasn’t sure if my co shooter had a shot because he couldn’t hear me whispering at him. I kept trying to whisper “If you have a shot take it,” but he couldn’t hear me. Later I found out he could see the bull’s front shoulder, but he told me it wasn’t his tag and he wanted me to shoot. That is a pretty good guy huh? Sean had the binoculars and kept counting points which was really getting me riled up. I kept hearing him say “15,16,17,18 points, sticker on the front! Eye guards!” I finally had to tell him to shut up. After at least 10 minutes the bull was sick of the game and he turned and started to walk away. My next move was to sprint 20 yards forward, raise my gun and look through the scope and when I did I could finally see the bull’s huge body walking left to right, and as soon as I got a good look at him the crosshairs were behind his shoulder, the safety was off, and I fired a shot. The bullet had to have clipped a few trees on the way there but I had to try.
The view from where I shot
The moose disappeared. My guide Sean said I had missed and my co shooter said that the bull must have ran down a bank and out of sight. I looked at both of them with a smile and said “I just dropped him right in his tracks.” Sean stayed behind glassing the area in case the moose jumped up and I headed in the bull’s direction with my co shooter. After 175 yards of busting brush and slicing our arms on the berry bushes, I rounded a small pine tree and there he was laying there. My shot had hit him in the back and I told my co shooter to come down and finish him off which he did quickly. What a moment, we couldn’t be more excited as we jumped up and down yelling and screaming. We took some pictures and looked at his huge rack of horns and about instantly I knew the bull was going with me to the taxidermy shop. Our guide couldn’t even believe it and I think he was in shock as we yelled at him to come down and check out the bull.
Big Bull Down
Well, as all moose hunters know this is when the work begins. We were 2.7 miles from the road mostly downhill thankfully, and we were on private land which we had permission to hunt but did not have permission to bring our 4 wheelers into and retrieve the moose. The decision was made that my hunting partners were going to head out of the woods to get permission from the landowner and I would stay with the moose. It was getting hot quick, so as soon as they left I tried to start field dressing the moose which is no easy task by yourself. I had a heck of a time but managed to dress the bull and drag the guts away so they wouldn’t ruin any meat. I went and washed up in the beaver pond and then found a nice shady spot and sat down and admired the bull. A total of 4 hrs from the time my buddies had left I finally heard the sound of a 4 wheeler and chainsaw coming my way. I was really worried because of the heat, and wanted to get the bull on ice as soon as possible. I walked up to them and they told me the story of how they had to drive all over town to get permission and how they had to drive all the way back to Sean’s house 45 minutes away because he had accidentally left his 4 wheeler keys at home. They looked as tired as I was, and they were pretty relieved that I had the moose dressed and ready to go. Quickly we hooked the moose up to the wheeler and after getting stuck a few times we were able to get him out of the woods and down to the road.
All Hooked Up
Getting stuck is part of the fun. Here I am sitting on the 4 wheeler trying to keep it from flipping over.
Getting them out is half the adventure
We didn’t realize how nice of a bull he was until we got to the local store and the crowd gathered around and began to snap pictures. He ended up being the highest scoring bull ever recorded for the town of Groton in the VT Big Game Trophy Club and he was also number 32 all time for VT with a score of 180 inches with a 53 3/8 spread. All I can say is I cannot wait to go moose hunting again. I drew a cow tag for Maine this year and if that hunt turns out anything like this one we are in for a good time.